"I'm struggling to set up career paths for my teams while trying to put in controls and metrics to run everything profitably, while also trying to manage a fast-growing company. What can I do to make this juggling act easier?"
Setting up career paths for your team is a shared responsibility between you and them so don’t carry the can solely on your shoulders.
It is also important to realise that all roles in your business are not created equal. Some are more critical than others – particularly when it comes to successfully achieving your purpose and objectives. You need to know which roles these are. Which people in your business would be very difficult to replace if they left? Who would leave a big gap that would be hard to fill?
The reason for asking these questions is to allow you to prioritise your efforts if you have to. Setting up career paths may be more important to some than to others. If it is important to people in critical roles, and you have limited time to invest in this activity, you may need to focus on these people.
Although I’m unsure of who said it, there’s a wonderful adage that says, “Where people in your business are concerned, no matter how hard you try, you can’t build a dam, you can only manage the flow.” This is very important to remember as you struggle with the above question. People will come and go from your business for many reasons including career development. Your challenge is to be aware of where people are at (particularly the people in key roles in your business) so that there are no nasty surprises.
The importance of career development discussions
To make it a little easier, build career development discussions and planning into your performance setting and review processes. When you are agreeing goals and objectives for the year (and the measures that will allow you and the members of your team to know if they are achieving these), it’s always a logical time to have a conversation about their development needs and their career ambitions.
The focus should be on what is necessary in order for them to be successful in their current role while also having the potential to address future career paths and aspirations. Joining this up not only addresses in one process what you are struggling to juggle, but it aligns it as well.
If your performance review and development process involves quarterly catch-ups, your team need to prepare ahead of time and provide you with an assessment of how they are going. This is based on what has been agreed upon and what else they may need in order to achieve what is expected of them. You should have this far in advance of your meeting with them to give you adequate time to prepare your own assessment and thoughts.
In these meetings, you need to be focused on them: How are they going? Do they have the things they need to deliver on their accountabilities? Do they need any more or different support from you?
Career/professional development can include a number of things including:
On-the-job learning opportunities
Buddying with someone else in the business
Involvement in special projects
1:1 coaching or mentoring
Formal training and development
The debate about who’s responsible for career development – employee or employer – continues to be debated. Providing career paths within businesses is increasingly challenging as organisation structures become flatter and less hierarchical. But, at the end of the day, when it comes to career paths, it is the employee’s career and they must therefore take ultimate responsibility.
By all means, you can support them to determine their action plan for professional growth and development and to ensure you are getting the most from them for however long they remain in your business.
This blog post is written by Liz Wotherspoon, Director of Growth at The Icehouse.